Tegus lizards can be a rewarding pet. Originally from the rain forests of Argentina and parts of Brazil and Uruguay, Tegus lizards are largely terrestrial. In their juvenile years, they are a moderate size and easy to handle. In addition to being intelligent and attractive, they are very adaptable to a diet in captivity.
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There are several species of Tegus lizards that include black and white striped or spotted, red, blue and golden, with the blue lizard thought to be easiest to tame. Similar in build to monitor lizards, the Tegus lizards can reach sexual maturity in three years. Males sometimes exceed 4 feet in length and have a more muscular build that the shorter females. Hatchlings are less than 8 inches long so are ideal for a 30-gallon terrarium for the first months of their lives. With proper diet and housing, Tegus lizards can live 15 years or more.
Diet in the Wild
A study conducted in Sao Paulo, Brazil examined the stomach content of 35 juvenile Tegu lizards to assess their diet in the wild. Stomach contents revealed invertebrates, vertebrates and plants, with invertebrates being the most common food category at 90.6 percent. Their diet consisted of 66.7 percent spiders and 56.7 percent orthopterans, making those insects the most frequently consumed. Bananas and plant matter contributed to the diet along with shells of snails, millipedes and roaches. Carrion is consumed if the opportunity arises, making Tegus scavengers as well as active foragers early in life. Studies found that Tegus change their diet as teeth develop.
Diet in Captivity
Adult Tegus are omnivores and can be fed an assortment of insects such as crickets, meal-worms, wax-worms and roaches. Additionally, ground raw turkey, high-quality canned dog or cat food or commercial Tegu food provides variety. GrizzlyRun suggests cooked eggs -- scrambled or hard-boiled -- baby chickens and fresh fish, but not from a pet shop because of the chemicals used in the tanks. Rodents may be offered sparingly as they tend to be high in fat. It is advisable not to feed the rodents live as they may bite and injure your Tegus.
Hatchlings and Juvenile Diet
Tegus are carnivores as hatchlings so will only eat meat up until one year of age. Juveniles generally require more protein than the adults do and should be fed as much as they will eat. A young Tegus diet can include crickets, captive raised roaches, meal-worms, ground turkey, pinkie mice and cooked eggs.
To encourage a good shed, as much as half the diet for adult Tegus can consist of fruits. Choose from any soft fruit such as grapes, tomatoes, strawberries and melons. Bananas should be given in moderation because of the high potassium and phosphorus content.
A high quality vitamin-mineral supplement is especially important for young Tegus. Calcium with vitamin D3 should be lightly dusted on food. Feed sources of calcium such as bone meal or whole eggs with shell. Cod liver oil, in combination with beef liver, is suggested for vitamin A and D, according to Bamboozoo.
Because Tegus grow rapidly and have an active metabolisms, regular feeding is necessary. Feed young Tegus daily, as much food as they will consume in about an hour. As your Tegu reaches adult size, feed adequate small meals several times a week. Tegus hibernate in winter, so decrease feeding at this time.